2 Samuel 22-24

2 Samuel 22-24…The ways of God

Have you ever puzzled over statements in the Bible that seem to contradict each other? For example, 1 Chronicles 21:1 states that the one who “moved David to number Israel” was Satan, but 2 Samuel 24:1 says it was the Lord. How do we explain this? We know that God never tempts anyone to sin (James 1:13).

The answer lies in the way the Old Testament writers expressed the ways of God. They sometimes ascribed to God what He merely allowed, knowing that He permits us to make wrong choices and then uses the tragic results to accomplish His good purposes.

In 2 Samuel 24:1, we read that God “moved David” to take a census of Israel. This is clearly a case when God allowed Satan to influence David, for it was an attempt to assess Israel’s military strength. This reflected the same sin of pride and self-reliance that was prevalent in the nation. As a result, God judged the people and their king.

So what was the good purpose God accomplished by allowing Satan to influence David? Although many Israelites died, the nation itself was spared and purified. The Lord punished the guilty but also showed His mercy.

God’s ways may be beyond our understanding, but we can always trust Him to do what is right. He uses trials, and intentionally tests us to turn us toward Him. This testing of our faith matures us spiritually, and Christians who see trials as punishment from God have a very small view of Him.

2 Samuel 19-21

2 Samuel 19-21…The way we live matters.

God’s reputation is either enhanced or maligned by the attitudes and actions of His people. These chapters in 2 Samuel illustrate this truth.

During the reign of David, God punished Israel with a 3-year famine because David’s predecessor King Saul had attempted to exterminate the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1). His action violated a solemn promise Joshua and the rulers of Israel had made with Gibeon in the name of “the Lord God of Israel” (Joshua 9:18). God’s honor was at stake.

When David asked the Gibeonites how he could make amends, they demanded that seven men from the descendants of Saul be handed over to them to be hanged. The Bible does not tell us that the Lord demanded this retribution, and the death of Saul’s sons and grandsons must have grieved God’s heart. Yet He allowed the executions to go forward so that the agreement His people had made in His name would be renewed. The Gibeonites therefore knew that God was a God of honor.

Just as Israel profaned God’s holy name by their wickedness (Ezekiel 36:22), so too we can dishonor God today by the way we live. God is glorified particularly in how each local church lives in the geographical area in which they are placed. Churches that reflect the glory of God, through holiness, love, and unity, are like beautiful cities on a hill shining a bright light to the world, and drawing attention to God’s glory. Conversely, churches that look no different than the world, lie about what God is really like. Let’s pattern our lives after Jesus both individually and corporately. Then we will bring honor to God’s name.

2 Samuel 16-18

2 Samuel 16-18…David’s trust in the Lord

In these chapters we read of King David being cursed by Shimei. This happened while David was fleeing from his son Absalom, who wanted to kill him.

Unlike David, we often want to silence our critics, insist on fairness, and defend ourselves. But as we grow in our awareness of God’s protective love, we become less concerned with what others say about us and more willing to entrust ourselves to our Father. Like David, we can say of each critic, “Let him alone, and let him curse” (2 Samuel 16:11). This is humble submission to God’s will.

We may ask our opponents to justify their charges, or we may counter them with steadfast denial. Or, like David, we can wait patiently until God vindicates us.

It is good to look beyond those who oppose us and look to the One who loves us with infinite love. It is good to be able to believe that whatever God permits is for our ultimate good—good, though we’re exposed to the curses of a Shimei; good, though our hearts break and we shed bitter tears.

You are in God’s hands, no matter what others are saying about you. He has seen your distress, and in heaven He’ll repay you for the cursing you have received. So trust Him and abide in His love.

2 Samuel 13-15

2 Samuel 13-15…David flees Jerusalem.

David fled Jerusalem, driven from his home by his son Absalom, who had gathered an army of supporters. As he escaped, he instructed Zadok, his priest, to take the ark of God back to Jerusalem and to lead his people in worship there. “If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord,” he said, “He will bring me back and show me both it and His dwelling place.” But if not, “Here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him” (2 Samuel 15:25-26).

We may fear that circumstances and human schemes have ruined our plans. But nothing can frustrate God’s loving intention. Tertullian (150–220 AD) wrote, “[Do not regret] a thing which has been taken away . . . by the Lord God, without whose will neither does a leaf glide down from a tree, nor a sparrow of one farthing’s worth fall to the earth.”

Our heavenly Father knows how to care for His children and will allow only what is best for us spiritually. We can rest in His infinite wisdom and goodness, even if that means He’s not giving us what we want.

2 Samuel 10-12

2 Samuel 10-12…David Falls

Despite David’s great leadership competencies, he is also remembered as one of history’s greatest sinners. These chapters tell the famous story of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah. We might say it all started “innocently.” David was strolling about on the roof of his palace (though he should have been in battle, 2 Sam. 11:1) when he saw Bathsheba bathing (vv. 2–3). The king could have turned his gaze away, but he found himself drawn to this other man’s wife. Consumed by his lust, he used his authority to bring her into his house and ended up fathering a child by her (vv. 4–5).

We may not be cheating on our spouses, but is this episode not a fitting illustration of what happens whenever we sin? How often do we mull over our lusts, fueling the fire of wickedness as David did? From there it is easy to disregard the effect our evil will have on others if we sin against them. David did just that when he violated the trust of the very man who was out defending his throne (vv. 6–7)! Of course, once we have transgressed, we then also attempt to cover our tracks like David even if we are not guilty of murder (vv. 8–27).

The progression in David’s sin reveals a callousing of his heart, a hardening that would make him unable to return to Yahweh without the work of the Spirit through the Word of God (John 3:5; Heb. 4:12). Like David, we too must repent when the Lord pierces our hearts (2 Sam. 12:1–15a) so that we may manifest that we are truly His.

2 Samuel 7-9

2 Samuel 7-9…King David’s mercy.

Having received his throne, one of the first things that David did was to look for a way to be faithful to the covenant with Jonathan that he had made so many years before (1 Sam. 20:12–17). Godly people keep their promises, and so David began looking for someone from Jonathan’s house, that he might follow through on his pledge not to cut off his steadfast love from the line of Jonathan (vv. 14–15). These chapters record what the king did to fulfill his promise.

After a search of his kingdom, David found Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth and brought him into his house. This Mephibosheth was “crippled in his feet,” but David exalted him to his own table (2 Sam. 9:1–8). This was an extraordinary act of kindness and generosity on the part of David, especially since he made sure Mephibosheth “ate always at the king’s table” (vv. 9–13), a place of profound importance and intimacy in the royal court.

Lest we are tempted to look down on David’s generosity to Mephibosheth, we should realize that the story can serve as an illustration of what happens to us in our salvation. From birth we are crippled in heart and mind, unable to love or serve the Lord (Rom. 3:11). But God does not leave His people in that poor estate; rather, He lifts us up to His kingdom and allows us to sit at His table and commune with Him (Ps. 23; 1 Peter 2:10).

David lifted up Mephibosheth out of a great love for Jonathan, while our Father lifts us up on account of His great love for His one and only Son. Our Creator has given us to Christ Jesus as a gift (John 17), as a sure proof that His labors on the cross were not in vain, having purchased a people that are His forever (Isa. 53:11).

2 Samuel 4-6

2 Samuel 4-6…David anointed King of Israel.

In the ancient world, one of the most celebrated figures was a young student of Aristotle, the son of King Philip of Macedonia—Alexander. He is known to history as Alexander the Great because of his perhaps unprecedented level of achievement. He made great military conquests, aided scientific advancement, and promoted cultural unity. But as great as Alexander was, David may deserve the title “the Great” even more. David is seen as the king of Israel, whose reign was so exemplary that the very kingdom of God is associated with it and Christ’s kingdom is seen as its consummation. David actually ushered in the golden age of Israel. He was distinguished as a warrior, defeating the giant Goliath as a youth and expanding Israel’s borders to their widest point as a man. David was also Israel’s “poet laureate”; if only for his psalms, he would justly be famous. And David was a musician, a harpist and composer—his psalms were designed for choral use. Of all Israel’s kings, David was most scrupulous in obeying God. And yet, he fell spectacularly. When he did sin, however, he was great in repentance, as Psalm 51 shows. David seemed to do everything in great proportions.

The one thing that surely set David apart from Alexander and other great men, however, is that God was with him. His spectacular gifts and talents were endowments from the God of Israel, who raised David from obscurity to the heights of achievement. David was great because God made him so.

Who are your heroes? What characteristics make them great in your eyes? Are these characteristics of true greatness? Pray today that God will raise up men and women who are truly great in their reliance upon and submission to Him. Pray that Christians would follow such people, not the superficially great ones of the world.

2 Samuel 1-3

2 Samuel 1-3…Saul’s death.

The final chapter of 1 Samuel recounts a massive battle in which the men of Israel flee before the Philistines. Saul’s three sons are struck down and killed, and Saul himself is wounded. He asks his armorbearer to kill him lest the Philistines have that “pleasure,” but the armor-bearer is too fearful to do it. So Saul allows his body to fall onto his sword. Thus ends the reign of Israel’s first monarch. At least one man, an Amalekite, escapes from the battle and makes his way to David, where he reports Saul’s death at the beginning of 2 Samuel. His account is slightly different. However, he claims to have dealt the death blow to Saul that the armor-bearer refused to give. Apparently he is hoping to curry favor as the man who finally finished off David’s pursuer. But David does not celebrate Saul’s death. Rather, he tears his clothes as a sign of anguish, then mourns, weeps, and fasts till evening. Next he has the self-proclaimed destroyer of God’s anointed king put to death. Finally he composes a lament for Saul and Jonathan, his Song of the Bow, in which he proclaims that a tragedy has befallen Israel.

David’s faith may have been at a low ebb just prior to this unexpected providence. But his reaction to Saul’s death shows that the heart qualities that prompted God to choose him for the throne are still present. David realizes that God has carried out His judgment on Saul, and he takes no joy in it. And he understands that Saul was an effective deliverer for Israel. In light of this dire event, David’s own desire for the throne is a small thing, and he sees that. The selflessness he exhibits here is a wonderful characteristic for any monarch.

God declares in Scripture that He takes no joy in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11), and neither should we. Like David in his mourning for Saul, we must see the deaths of unbelievers for what they are—tragedies caused by sin. Pray for your unsaved friends and family, and warn them of the approach of the day of God’s wrath.